The American Sign Language (ASL) Studies program at UW-Milwaukee strives to provide a rich and rigorous educational experience that allows for students to develop both linguistic proficiency and a deep respect for the Deaf culturo-linguistic community. All courses in the ASL Studies program are taught by native ASL users, which allows for language learning via immersion.
The ASL Studies Program aspires to foster a sense of “Deaf Heart” in the individuals who study this language and culture. These individuals then become allies to the Deaf community and carry the skills and knowledge necessary to inspire change in their chosen careers.
For more information or questions about the program
Contact an American Sign Language Studies Program Academic Advisor
(Last names A – L) – Kristin Roosevelt
(Last names M – Z) – Nikki Claas
American Sign Language Studies Coordinators
American Sign Language is widely used in the United States and Canada. The visual way in which this language is conveyed has gained its status as the most popular world language taken by college students across the U.S. and UWM is no exception enrolling over 500 students per semester into their program. The UW-Milwaukee ASL Studies program provides a strong language and cultural foundation for the students who have a passion for working in the Deaf community as a primary career.
ASL Studies Major
A major in ASL Studies provides students a strong language foundation to pursue careers in which they will work directly with Deaf people. In addition to their GERs, an ASL Studies Major requires a minimum of 45 credits in these areas:
- ASL courses (ASL I-VI): 18 credits
- Deaf Culture & Deaf History: 6 credits
- ASL linguistic studies and advanced skills courses: 18 credits
Students who choose the ASL Studies major are required to complete service-learning experiences in the Deaf community and will learn of the value in gaining citizenship into the community of people who use ASL as their primary language. These service-learning components also bring to light social justice issues that impact the community.
See our section on Careers to explore how an ASL Studies major can enhance your vocational path.
ASL Studies Minor
Students who decide to add an ASL Studies minor onto their primary field of study will develop an understanding of the Deaf community, lending itself to future collaborations and expanded job opportunities as an ally to this cultural-linguistic group. ASL minor courses enrich a student’s language and cultural competencies which will enhance a future career. An ASL Studies minor will not be sufficient for fluency in the language, however it will provide a foundation of language, culture and social justice skill sets. Combined with the right major, this addition can enhance any resume.
The ASL Studies Minor requires a minimum of 30 credits in the following courses.
- ASL courses (ASL I-VI): 18 credits
- American Deaf Culture & Deaf History: 6 credits
- Semantics: 3 credits
- Classifiers or ASL Literature: 3 credits
Developing fluency in a language must have a multifaceted approach. In addition to premiere classroom instruction and socializing opportunities provided in the community, the ASL Studies program also has a language lab – the ASL Lab. Students in ASL V, VI and any interpreter training student can access this lab for advanced homework assignments and projects. The lab is unique as it is staffed by all Deaf individuals including two language mentors that are available to advanced students. Language mentoring is a key component to advancing in ASL fluency. Our mentors work collaboratively with all lecturers and staff to guide students in their development.
Living Learning Community (LLC)
The purpose of the American Sign Language LLC is to establish a community for Deaf students and students who know or are learning ASL. This unique ASL LLC program will enhance students’ knowledge and in American Sign Language (ASL) outside of the classroom as they build solid relationships with one another and the extended Deaf community. Through these interactions, the ASL LLC gain confidence in the social and cultural diversity of the signing community.
Study Abroad is a great opportunity to experience the immersion in a visual-gestural language and deaf culture other than American Sign Language and American Deaf Culture. Having students travel immerses them in another country’s visual language environment rather than relying on the audio-verbal environment that they are accustomed to. This leads to enhancing one’s understanding of the visual language of ASL. This three to four-week course is open to ASL and ITP students, as well as Deaf/HH students, and is led by a Deaf study-abroad coordinator/instructor. The instructor will prompt critical comparative analysis between two languages and cultures. Study abroad to other countries vary every other year. We have traveled to Italy, France, and United Kingdom.
The mission of the ASL/English Interpretation program is to educate students to be competent bilingual/bicultural interpreters by emphasizing service learning experiences in the Deaf community. Our program philosophy “Deaf Heart Starts Here”, takes hold the moment a student begins their preparation because the path to becoming an interpreter begins with ASL Studies. Students can be confident that when they enter the ITP, they will be competent in ASL, knowledgeable about Deaf Culture and connected to the local Deaf Community.
ASL World Language Teacher Certification
Students interested in teaching ASL as a World Language in a K – 12 educational setting should pursue this program. This teaching certification program is a collaboration with the Curriculum & Instruction department in the School of Education. Students gain their ASL fluency and immersion experience via the ASL Studies Program and the pedagogy training with the World Language Program. During their course work and field experience, students receive support from the teaching staff within the ASL Studies program. For more information, please visit the Second Language Education: Early Childhood – Adolescence webpage.
If the student is new to ASL, they should begin with ASL 1. However, if a student has prior experience with ASL, whether it be academic or organic, they may choose to see if they may be placed in a higher level of ASL. The ASL Studies Program offers two pathways that students may choose.
American Sign Language Screening Placement
The American Sign Language Screening Placement is used to determine a student’s ASL proficiency, their involvement in the Deaf community, and their awareness of Deaf culture. The assessment is done in a face-to-face interview format by the UWM ASL Studies coordinators or instructors. The goal of the evaluation is to see how the student responds to different levels of ASL discourse based on our program’s objectives. The interview will be 15 to 20 minutes in length. Following the interview, the coordinators will privately discuss the screening, determine student’s level, then inform the student (within a week) the level in which they will be most successful. There are no retro credits given for ASL regardless of courses taken at other institutions. However, if the student would like retro credits or transfer credits, then the ASLPI may be a better options (see below).
Cost? There is no fee, but please fill out the ASL Screening Placement Registration Form to set up an interview.
American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI)
If the student would like retro credits or transfer credits for ASL classes, the American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) may be a good choice. ASLPI is a language evaluation used to determine a person’s ASL proficiency. The principle in this kind of evaluation is to see, through a face-to-face interview, what a person can do with the target language (ASL) at a given point in time in a variety of contexts. The ASLPI is a 20-25 minute, video-recorded, interactive dialogue between the candidate and the interviewer. The interview is rated by a team of evaluators and the candidates are awarded an overall proficiency level on a 0-5 rating scale. Based on the rating given, the student will be placed in an appropriate level of ASL in which they will be most successful. In addition, any pre-requirements to that class will be waived and retroactive credits (maximum of 12) will be awarded. Depending on course placement, a student can be eligible for a maximum of 12 retroactive credits by successfully completing the course with a B or better.
For more information, visit the American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) webpage.
We will offer UW- Milwaukee Proctor site for ASLPI as an assessment tool and placement by appointment only. However, if coming on campus is not an option due to current COVID-19 situation. Good news that ASLPI do recognize having on-site and proctor is no longer viable for some people and/or area. Hence, ASLPI do offer distance / remote ASLPI testing site from your home. It is work in progress. Please check ASLPI website to check their status of testing services.
The ASL Studies Program is unique in that native users of the language teach the courses, so by design, students are having immersion experience from the first day they step into an American Sign Language class. These staff members not only are language experts, they provide the Deaf perspective on the community of people who use ASL.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says a career as an interpreter is growing much faster than average, with 17 percent growth predicted through 2026. In addition to traditional careers like interpreting, new career possibilities open up as technology evolves. While on the surface, ASL/English Interpretation program may seem like the best match for this field of study, a double major or a minor in ASL Studies can be used to enhance specialized careers such as (but not limited to):
- Education: Whether you work with in a mainstream setting, a residential school or a post-secondary environment, competency in ASL and Deaf culture will equip professionals with the tools to provide or advocate for optimal access for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf Blind students.
- Health: Medical professionals who know sign language are in demand. Speech-language pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, nurses and doctors who know sign language can work better with their diverse clientele. Competency in Deaf community and cultural awareness is a great enhancement to your healthcare skills in providing direct access to critical services.
- Government and Law Enforcement: Federal, state, and local government agencies offer opportunities to people skilled in sign language. Government jobs may include vocational rehabilitation, state offices or commissions for the Deaf, independent living centers and equal opportunity offices. Office holders who are fluent in ASL can become allies to the Deaf community by facilitating strong relationships between the community and the government as well as its political system. Fluency in ASL can also be used in law enforcement environments such as judicial, detention facilities, police officers or first responders.
- Recreation and Entertainment: Travel agents and tour guides that know sign language can be found working in specialized Deaf programs at travel and tour agencies or even running their own agencies. The ASL Studies Program provides students who choose the entertainment industry, the tools necessary to design their events that make venues such as concerts, theaters and professional sporting events accessible to the community.
If you would like to inquire about the limitless benefits of an ASL Studies major or minor to any career path, contact Erin Wiggins at firstname.lastname@example.org.